clarity

Be Generous to a Fault - 8/20/19


People who think they’re generous to a fault usually think that’s their only fault – American Journalist Sydney Harris. This quote reminds me of someone who views themselves as a giver – someone who is so humble that he likes to humbly tell everyone of the gifts he’s given, good Read more

Don’t Assume because... - 8/13/19


You've probably heard this statement growing up. Your parents said, “Don’t assume, because it makes…you look bad.” Or something like that… Recently my laptop screen died, and since it was an older laptop, I decided to go ahead and buy a new one instead of paying to have the screen Read more

Patience Leads to Positivity - 8/6/19


Thank you for your patience. That’s a statement I enjoy saying…when I am the customer. When I’m trying to learn something and I’m about to go into a process, I want to have a feel for what the whole process involves. Over the years, I’ve gotten tired of feeling like Read more

Back to Reality...for Customer Expectations - 7/30/19


Have you ever walked into a patient registration area of a hospital and seen a sign that said “if you’ve been waiting longer than 15 minutes, please see the receptionist?” Have you ever called a customer service number and been told by a recording that “the average hold time is Read more

For Excellence to Happen, Get Engaged - 7/23/19


The customer was throwing an absolute fit in the lobby. Sitting among several other customers waiting for her number to be called, she was raising her voice and letting out the occasional expletive about the lengthy wait time. An employee sitting behind the counter thought to herself: I’m going Read more

Libby Listened to Serve - 7/16/19


Libby was new to her role with the organization. She had never been a customer service representative in a call center before, but she was hired because of her attitude. She wanted to learn, enjoyed working with people, and could carry on a conversation with a wall. After going through Read more

Chris Got Noticed for All the Right Reasons - 7/9/19


Chris was working through a temporary agency, and he got a job at a warehouse. He was packaging items to be shipped out, and his shift didn't start until 7:30 a.m. Chris always got there a little bit early because of the bus schedule, and he hated just sitting Read more

What Does “No News” Mean? Here’s a Quick Story - 7/2/19


Steven was trying to make the purchase of his new used car official, so he could get license tags for his State. In order for the State to allow him to put the vehicle in his name, he had to submit paperwork to prove that the prior owner (from Read more

Are you the Output or the Input? - 6/25/19


You’re the output and the input. Sorry to put it into such technical/industrial engineering terminology. But in a service system, we all have some role as a part of the process. First, we receive the output. Somebody has a customer that they direct to us, so that handoff is from Read more

Hear Them, and Tell Them What You Heard - 6/18/19


CSS has conducted close to 1000 research projects over the years, many of which were web-based surveys. And oftentimes, in addition to or instead of completing the online survey, respondents e-mail us directly with questions or comments – and we respond personally to every message on behalf of our Read more

Make it Crystal Clear – 5/21/19

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment

Sometimes we communicate so well, and sometimes we don’t communicate as well as we think we do. When you’re trying to set or manage another person’s expectations, what you say may be very clear to you, but the reality is it may not be clear to the other person. And if the other person doesn’t understand what you’re conveying, they could have an expectation that’s unrealistic.

Noted below are 10 statements an employee might make to a customer. At face value, most may seem very typical and pretty clear:

  1. That won’t take long.
  2. The process is described on the website.
  3. You need to fill out a GARBA.
  4. You’ll hear back from us not too long after we receive the results.
  5. I need your ID.
  6. The first thing you need to do is to set an appointment.
  7. Just call any time if you need help.
  8. Call the main number, and we’ll get that for you.
  9. I’m going to transfer you (then the caller hears a click and rings).
  10. Once you send in a work order, the maintenance folks will be in touch and address it quickly.

So, what’s wrong with these? Here are 10 things to consider (the #s below correspond to the #s above):

  1. “Won’t take long” might be interpreted differently by different people – 1 hour to the customer v. 1 week to the employee.
  2. The website has many pages; be more specific; make it easy for the customer to find the specific page.
  3. What is a GARBA? Avoid acronyms whenever possible.
  4. How long is “not too long?” And when do you expect to receive the results? Both timeframes are unclear.
  5. A customer may have several ID’s. Which one is needed?
  6. The other process steps are not described.
  7. What number should the caller call and when?
  8. What’s the main number? How long will it take to “get that?”
  9. It’s not clear why the caller is being transferred, to whom, etc.
  10. It’s not clear how to send the order, who will respond to the customer, what “in touch” means, and what “quickly” means.

To effectively set or manage expectations, ensure you’re being as clear as the customer needs.

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Seek Confusion – 4/30/13 TOW

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment

Do you want to be a hero?

Employees get some of the greatest compliments, the most sincere thanks from customers and co-workers alike when they make the murky clear. When they make the unknown known. When they help the customer to set a clear path, overcoming their indecision.

In other words, when you take a customer who is confused, and you add clarity, those customers are usually so appreciative. They say “NOW I understand” or “Thank you so much for clearing that up!” or “That helps a lot!” When people are confused, they feel helpless, get frustrated, are embarrassed, and generally have a whole lot of negative emotions and thoughts that build-up inside (and often outside, too!).

So do you want to be a “Customer Service Hero?” Here’s a key – Seek Confusion.

Literally put out your radar for something specific – look for the confused customer. They are the one staring for an eternity at the office directory in the lobby. They are the one pausing in the hallway and looking around. They are literally scratching their head, looking all around a shelf or an office without selecting anything or going in a specific direction. They are typically walking more slowly and often meandering more than heading in a straight line.

On the phone? They’re pausing frequently, sounding unsure of what best phrase or words to use (I’m like this a lot myself when talking to an automotive service center – “I might need to have my brake pads…uh…rotors…a full brake job…well, tuned up…”). They may spend two minutes describing an issue instead of just asking for the department that addresses it…because they don’t know who they should be talking with about the topic.

One advantage most employees have over most customers is that the employee knows their products, processes, services, and policies SO MUCH better than customers. To be a Customer Service Hero, we need to put ourselves in a position to share that knowledge.

We need to look for signs of customers needing clarity and direction, and we need to proactively engage them.

We need to Seek Confusion.


Customer Service Lessons from an 18 Year Old Hitchhiker – 4/23/13 TOW

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment

Cameron wanted to see the world, but not on an iPhone or by flying through the friendly skies. He wanted to see the World (or at least North America, Mexico, and Central America) by foot…and with an occasional ride from a stranger. Over the past year, Cameron has hitchhiked to Vancouver, East across Canada, down the East Coast of the U.S. to Central America, up to Mexico, and back to the East Coast of the U.S.

Earning money by playing guitar, and hitchhiking 250+ times, Cameron had to establish rapport quickly with the restaurant owner to wash dishes or play a gig, and with the truck driver to hitch a ride. So I asked him, “How do you meet someone and get them comfortable enough with you in five minutes to give you a ride to the next town? How do you get that rapport and trust that quickly?”

Here’s what he said:

  • Be VERY clear on your goals – He wanted to get to a certain town or location, and he specifically stated that
  • Paint a picture of how you’ve done it in the past – People have fear of the unknown; Cameron overcame the fear by giving examples of what he’s done in the past with others in similar situations
  • Ask them questions about themselves – People like to talk about themselves; they tend to like you more if you show interest in them
  • Be sincere – He truly was interested in what they said; he’s learning-oriented
  • If you hold back, they will not trust you – For them to be open to you, open up to them; thoroughly answer all their questions
  • Adjust your level of “animation” to theirs – Body language is big! People tend to be more comfortable with those who have similar mannerisms. He was always himself, but he adjusted his animation based on the other person.

To be great at customer service, you often have to establish rapport quickly.

Learn a few lessons from an 18 year old hitchhiker.